You, like many others, may have been left scratching your head while watching Tiger’s return to golf at the Waste Management event this past week. It was dismal. He hit the ball all over the place. He chipped and pitched like a bad 30 handicapper. He shot the worst round of his career—an 82—and came in next to last before the cut. Yikes! He looked lost… With all the conjecture out there, I thought I’d add some sense to the non-sense about what’s going on.

A return to Step One Golf

In trying to return to his old swing, Tiger is effectively learning a new swing. This is Step One Golf, folks. And it’s uncomfortable. Although it is sometimes necessary to reside on it, Step One is not a good place for a competitive golfer. Why? Step One is the place for a great deal of conscious effort—thinking about what you’re doing. Analyzing the very foundation of your swing. It’s very difficult to play well when on this step as there is just too much mechanical information on the mind. Thinking about “how” to swing is very different from being aware of the feel of hitting a golf shot.

TigerSteps believes that he has to rework his swing to break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships. He’s probably right. He was not getting the job done with the old swing, having become an almost skittish driver of the ball, especially when compared to Rory McIlroy. Tiger also knows very well what’s involved in learning a new swing. Time and relentless work to walk up the stairway to Step 4: Play. On Step 4, the swing becomes a very simple matter of a feel or a certain swing key that has become nearly effortless for the player to execute. He is focused mainly on hitting targets, not making swings. It’s almost automatic. Tiger’s a long way from there and he knows it. That’s why he doesn’t sound terribly worried. He has done this before.

Yeah, but what about the short shots?

Now this is a different subject altogether. Tiger wants to incorporate the same motion in his full swing and his short game shots, which I think is a BIG error. They are not the same motions. In fact, shots from 30 yards and in are vastly different motions than a full swing, so much so that I think they should be considered totally separate. Tiger had the best short game in the world years ago. When he learned Swing #3, he destroyed that old short game. He never got it back. He is doing it again. He is thinking about how to swing the club on these little shots rather than seeing the shot and hitting it. I think he would be far better off to keep the motions separate. My advice to him is to become somewhat more of a kid with his short game, and just hits the shots without thinking about how to. See it. Do it.

No, I don’t think he has the yips. I think he is just confused about how to play the shots. He no doubt has multiple, competing ideas floating around in his head that are clogging up the system. The moral, if you’re heading to Step One, you need to know what’s coming. It may be better to stick to your Swing DNA, and make small adjustments to the swing than to start all over.

Hit ‘em great!